I have recommended The Agonist many times for his timely and obsessive reporting of war news as it breaks, and was very distressed to learn that many of the items he has posted are copied directly from Stratfor’s situation reports. I was also distressed to see the comments on this microscandal on both The Agonist and the site that exposed the plagiarism, which basically eschew the ethical (and legal) matter because of the utility they find in The Agonist.

Here’s the problem. People like The Agonist because of the concise and meaningful summary of what’s going on in Iraq, that’s the reason I like it. That’s also the value that Stratfor brings to the table, and indeed they charge people money to view their reports. So when someone comes along and copies their reports to a free site (especially without attribution), then it hurts their business. It’s pretty simple — if I can get Strafor’s best stuff for free at The Agonist, why would I pay Stratfor? The fact that those items are often posted without attribution means that I can’t even judge for myself whether Stratfor is worth paying for based on the things taken from their site. Then there’s the added marketing problem for Stratfor. Sean-Paul from The Agonist has appeared on NBC Nightly News and has gotten a lot of other media exposure as well, I’m certain that the guys at Stratfor would prefer to get that exposure themselves, so that they can promote their service.

Sean-Paul’s site is clearly well done in spite of the plagiarism, but I honestly have no idea how good it is because I don’t know how much of his stuff is taken from other sites and posted without attribution. Unfortunately, I can no longer recommend his site to my readers.

Update: It seems Sean-Paul of The Agonist has buried the hatchet with Stratfor. I admit to still feeling a bit betrayed by his previous improper behavior, but it looks like things are going to be straightened out.